HomeInterviewsSXSW Artist Spotlight: Spyres

SXSW Artist Spotlight: Spyres

Our latest SXSW 2024 Artist Spotlight is Spyres, an up-and-coming rock band from Glasgow, Scotland. Since forming in 2019, Spyres has racked up millions of Spotify streams, sold out shows in Glasgow, and played several major festivals. The four-piece has also opened for well-known artists, including Scottish alternative rock band the Jesus and Mary Chain. You can catch Spyres at SXSW on March 12 1am at Valhalla, March 13 12:40pm at Parish, March 13 at 11:40pm, and March 16 2pm at the British Music Embassy at Sheraton Backyard.

360°Sound had a nice Zoom chat with singer/guitarist Kiera McGuire. McGuire and guitarist Emily Downie are the group’s primary songwriters and vocalists. Holding down the rhythm section is bassist Jude Curran and drummer Alex White. In this interview, McGuire talks about going electric, having success right out the gate, writing catchy hooks, and more.

Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Find the full video interview at the end of the article.

360°Sound: I understand you started as a two-piece playing mostly acoustic music. Tell us about how you met and your decision to go electric, ultimately resulting in the four-piece rock band.

Kiera McGuire: Me and Emily [Downie] both met doing open mic gigs around Glasgow, and we were both singing the same covers. We were only about 13 or 14. Emily’s dad said to my mum, “They should link up and sing together. I think they’d be really well suited as friends and vocally.” So we started singing covers, just us two, singing all around Glasgow. But we didn’t know anybody that played bass, and we didn’t know anyone that played drums.

It took us a while to find someone that we could just play with, and we always wanted to go electric. At some point when I was about 16, Jude [Curran] DM’d me on Instagram and said, “I really like your band. I play bass if you ever need a bass player.” I was like, “That sounds really good. If you can find us a drummer, then you can play bass.” And then he came back with Alex [White]. And the rest is history.

The first singles, “Otherside,” “Fake ID,” and “I Don’t Care,” all blew up on Spotify. What do you think it was about those songs that resonated with people?

I don’t know. It’s so crazy. I’m 21 now, Emily’s 20, and the boys have just turned 22. I think we’ve progressed, and we’ve wrote more songs together. As we think more about the band, we put a lot more thought in our songs, whereas the early ones we just wrote them with no thought.

We wrote “Otherside” about school when we were like 16. It had such a good reception, and it’s so crazy to think because they were the ones that we didn’t even give a second thought to, and they’re the ones that blew up. I don’t know what it was about the songs, but they were so well received at the time.

Do you not like singing those songs now because you’re in a different stage of life or don’t identify with the lyrics?

No, I do love them. I love “I Don’t Care.” That’s one of my favorite ones to play live. I’ve got “Otherside” tattooed on my arm because it’s obviously our biggest song and our first song that we brought out, so it means quite a lot. I love playing these songs still. And even with our first EP, Dear Diary, a lot of that work was a reflection back on our teenage years. Now that we’ve done all of that stuff, we’re progressing forward in adult life.

How’s the music scene in Glasgow?

The music scene is so good; it’s such a good place to be. People always comment on how friendly the people are. The slogan of the city is “People make Glasgow.” Everybody’s just so supportive of each other. There are so many different bands, all different styles.

“Only This Could Happen to Me” is my favorite song on the new EP, Karaoke Sellouts. That song has a big, layered sound and builds to a monster hook. Tell us about the writing and production involved with that track.

I think when we recorded the EP, we weren’t expecting [“Only This Could Happen to Me”] to do as well as it did. We thought that maybe “Money” or “The Thing” were going to be the ones that did really well. That’s just crazy. It’s always the songs that you don’t expect that do the best. We recorded at Christmas, and we were so busy. Emily was working, so she would come in like half the day. Some days she would come in the morning and leave.

The bass and the drums were down [for “Only This Could Happen to Me”]. Once that’s down, it’s solid. But me and Emily went back in, just us two, and rewrote that song given the basics of the drums and the bass. So it turned out to be a different song. But I’m so glad. If we never had that time, it would have sounded completely different. We are both students and both work, so it was really, really tight to try and record at times. We worked with what we had, and I think we made a good job of it.

How do you write a good hook?

Usually, when me and Emily start to write, we will usually meet up and go right back to the early days of just the acoustic guitars. We always write on acoustic guitars. We never actually really demo anything unless we’re with our producer.

It’s just usually us two, and we’ll start with some chords. We’ll go back and forward with melodies. I think that’s where me and Emily are quite good. It usually takes us ages to write the lyrics. Some songs come really, really fast, and some songs, we’re writing them whilst in the booths recording them. It’s a really mixed-up process.

What can SXSW attendees expect from your live shows?

Hopefully, no mistakes and no strings breaking. That happened to us on our last tour. We played one show where just everything seemed to go wrong. Emily’s string broke. I think our Roland drum pad stopped working. So hopefully not that.

Expect a high-energy show and guitar harmonies between me and Emily. Alex is such a tight drum player. He’s thrashing the drums. And Jude just struts about the stage. Just a bit of Glasgow coming to Austin, I think.

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